York Farms featured in SFA's Festival of Farms July 14
By Carol Stender
Date Modified: 08/02/2012 2:10 PM
HUTCHINSON, Minn. — Andy Cotter and his wife, Irene Genelin, don't farm hundreds of acres. They raise produce in field blocks.
The couple grows fruits, vegetables, herbs and flower for shareholders in their Community Supported Agriculture operation.
They are opening their farm to visitors on July 14 as part of the Sustainable Farming Association's Festival of Farms.
The festival is an opportunity for the public to learn about sustainable agriculture, to network and to have fun at various farms across the state.
A tour of the couple's York Farms start at 10 a.m.
They purchased the farm from Andy's parents, Al and Joan. Al purchased 85 acres in 1971. When he was transferred to the Twin Cities several years later, Al kept the farmland.
In 2002, Al decided to keep 40 acres for himself, but sold the remainder to Andy.
Andy and Irene researched CSAs and gardening and found field block information in a book on Canadian crop farming. Three years ago they started their CSA with their parents as the CSA's first shareholders. They've increased every year since, Andy said. They had four shares and increased it to 14 this year. They hope to more than double it next year with around 30 shares.
They are restoring wetlands on 65 acres and are farming 12 acres. The wetland area is a buffer between the land they are transitioning to organics and conventional fields. The wetlands are also good habitat for pollinators and wildlife, he said.
Andy said they are building the infrastructure needed for a CSA. They are building a cooler where they can store the vegetables until pick up.
Until they build their own greenhouse, they start plants at Loon Organics' greenhouse near Hutchinson. They have a high tunnel and raise produce earlier in the spring and later in the fall than conventional garden plots.
They offer apples, cherries, apricots, plums, summer- and fall-bearing raspberries, strawberries, seaberries, rhubarb and currents. They've planted several varieties of zucchini. A block is filled with all types of herbs and flowers.
Their farm isn't self-sustaining yet. Andy works for General Mills and is able to tele-commute from their farm several days each week. Irene is a yoga instructor in Hutchinson.
"When we started, we thought we have this land and we have this nice place, let's make a go of it," Andy said. "It's something we can do together well into our 80s and 90s. And we are making a difference in peoples' lives."
It's part of the mission to help others. Extra produce is taken to the local food shelf.
They are always interested in trying new varieties and, as business people, they stay in tune with their customers. Each week Irene produces a newsletter complete with garden information, a list of the vegetables ready for the week and recipes.
"It's great when a customer will say they've tried kale for the first time thanks to a recipe we included," she said.
At the end of the season, they send out a survey to shareholders to gather information on produce they liked and what they'd like to see in the future.
They look forward to sharing their vision for their farm's future with the public at their July 14 tour.